Employers may use online health insurance marketplaces

Jan. 30, 2014 at 11:31 PM
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NEW YORK, Jan. 30 (UPI) -- Health insurance premiums on the "Obamacare" online federal and state marketplaces are lower than the average employer-based premiums, consultants say.

A report by the Health Research Institute at PricewaterhouseCoopers suggests the federal government's online marketplace -- healthcare.gov -- and the state marketplaces might be an option for employers looking to provide affordable health insurance for their workers, NBC News reported.

Ceci Connolly, managing director of PwC's Health Research Institute, said her team analyzed all insurance policies offered on the 15 exchanges run by states and the District of Columbia, plus healthcare.gov and compared them to employer-provided plans.

Critics of the marketplaces said those buying health insurance for the first time or those who bought individual plans themselves would experience "sticker shock" when comparing plans and premiums on the online marketplaces, but the report found the premiums were lower than the similar bare-bones employer-provided plans and the health insurance was more comprehensive.

The Health Research Institute research team calculated the average premium for a plan with coverage similar to that of the average employer-sponsored plan in 2014 would be $5,844 on the online marketplaces, compared to $6,119 for a worker getting coverage from an employer.

The average exchange premium would be $4,885 for the lowest-priced health insurance plan in each state, or 20 percent lower than the average premium for comparable employer-sponsored coverage, the report said.

In 2017, employers will be able to use the federal and state marketplaces, Connolly said.

"We believe some employers will look to that as an alternative to the employer-sponsored coverage they provide, and this data suggests it will be a competitive market," Connolly told NBC News.

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